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It has always surprised people to learn that I’ve never watched "Twin Peaks." I'll admit, Mark Frost and David Lynch's 1990 TV series only tangentially about who killed the infamous Laura Palmer is not a topic that comes up in casual conversation often, but whenever it has, people have been noticeably shocked. Because, I suppose, it seems like the kind of thing I would really, really like.
I was 13 when "Twin Peaks" originally premiered, and at the time it held little interest for me, being too busy watching "In Living Color" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (and, if I’m honest, a brief dalliance with "Cop Rock"). It was a year later that I would meet a girl my age named Miranda who was into dark, unfamiliar music, who would pass me Depeche Mode mix tapes and who did an elaborate Martha-Graham-style modern dance routine while wearing a nude-colored bodysuit at the school talent show, much to the vocal amusement of the boys in the audience, and in spite of the snickers she kept her focus and dignity and completed the routine as though she was performing at the Met. She was lovely and weird and all the boys called her a slut and I mostly admired her from afar, wanting to be her and also finding her terrifically intimidating, but she watched "Twin Peaks."
"Twin Peaks" was undoubtedly too complex and grown-up for me at the time anyway -- I wouldn’t have appreciated a tenth of what it has to offer. (I also routinely confused it with "Northern Exposure," having seen neither, but having a vague notion that both involved some unfamiliar amount of flannel.) And over the years, "Twin Peaks" just fell into line alongside all the other much-beloved TV shows that have been recommended to me and yet which I have never seen (a list which includes, regrettably, "Gilmore Girls," "The Wire," "Breaking Bad," and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," among others).
I’ve also never been particularly fond of David Lynch. Well, his work. I think David Lynch the person is probably lovely.
Still, with the recent announcement that "Twin Peaks" will be returning to television, specifically Showtime, in 2016, I was forced recognize this gap in my pop culture knowledge. So I decided to watch the first season on Netflix and report my findings.
I expected to hate this.
I really, really did. I expected to be all “Way to be weird, David Lynch! If I wanted to feel this confused and uncomfortable I’d go develop a really high fever!” My plan was to be all funny and clever and above the compulsory "Twin Peaks" adoration because I got to experience it with distance and detachment.
That didn’t happen.
The pilot was a little slow. By the end, I was beginning to doubt I could make anything worthwhile out of the experience. It wasn’t terrible. None of my notes were funny, consisting as they did mostly of “Why does the ceiling fan get a closeup?” “Act harder, guys,” and “Jeez, hair.” (This last was with a flavor of admiration, not judgment, to be clear.)
And then somewhere between the second and fourth episodes I became thoroughly obsessed.Goddamn Agent Cooper.
Part of me is glad I didn't watch this in 1990 because I would never have been able to appreciate this character on the level I do today. Between his zen-level appreciation of coffee, his childlike fascination with trees, the meticulously detailed tape-recorded messages to Diane, the weirdo Tibet tangents, and his ability to just roll with whatever crosses his path, whether it is a massive step forward in his investigation, or a catastrophic setback, Agent Cooper is IMPOSSIBLY wonderful.
I did have to overcome the fact that by some feat of direction or maybe just magic, Kyle MacLachlan manages to be really hot in this role. Please understand that my primary MacLachlan references prior to this were "Dune" and "Showgirls." "Dune," I just hate as a movie. And while I’ll gladly fight anyone who argues against my position that "Showgirls" is the greatest camp masterpiece of the past 20 years, it is also easily the least sexually appealing film ever made, and Kyle MacLachlan one of the least sexually appealing things in it.
But he is super hot in "Twin Peaks." Stupefyingly hot. I can’t figure it out.
"Twin Peaks" is a very act-y show. There is a lot of acting. People act HARD. You’d be challenged to find a bit of scenery anywhere without teeth marks in it. Nadine makes drapery runners into a drama worthy of Shakespeare. James Hurley is like, really tormented a lot, or maybe he’s overwhelmed with guilt, or maybe he’s just inconceivably boring. Whatever it is, it's intense. The sheer volume of meaningful looks shared by characters with no apparent purpose would stun a moose.
Initially I tried to make fun of this, and then the Cherry Pie Flavored Kool-Aid kicked in and I realized how fantastically brilliant the very very very extremely forceful acting is. Once you get on board it makes sense, somehow. Before I started watching the pilot episode, I asked Twitter for advice on what to expect and how to prepare, and the thing I heard most was “Just roll with it.” It’s a useful lesson for life as well.
All of Audrey Horne's outfits.
All of them. Every one.
I understand a bunch of cultural references now.
I should always have pie in the house. I’m an ADULT. I can have pie in the house every damn day I am alive if I want to, and no one can stop me.
I got spoiled and I don't even care.
I was wikipedia-ing how many sisters Donna Hayward has because I was totally confused, and in the course of reading I accidentally spoiled myself on the answer to the question that I wasn’t especially invested in to start with, but which is kind of the MacGuffin of the whole series: who killed Laura Palmer? I know! I could not care less! I will keep watching anyway!
Nobody ever told me how darkly hilarious Twin Peaks is. I probably would have watched it sooner if I’d known. Whether it’s a room full of Icelandic investors imitating the grief-stricken gesticulations of a bereft father because they think it’s a new dance, or the meticulous sameness of the stacked-donuts-on-paper-towels, or the occasional glimpses of “Invitation to Love,” a bizarre TV soap opera within this bizarre TV soap opera, "Twin Peaks" indulges a tragicomic self-referential humor that is more likely to elicit uncomfortable chuckling than LOLs, which speaks to me on a deep inner level.
It’s oddly timeless.
"Twin Peaks" doesn't feel so much like a show made in 1990, as a show set in 1990. This is quite an accomplishment, as even TV series and movies that I really love from that decade usually have moments in which they betray the limits of their era, often to unintentionally hilarious effect (I’m looking at you, "X-Files").
But "Twin Peaks" doesn’t feel dated at all. This may partly be due to its lack of allegiance even to the ’90s; most of the town goes around dressed like it’s 1955, and there is a decided lack of the antiquated technology that can be so distracting in media from the ’80s and ’90s. It could be on TV today. It should be. Every show should be "Twin Peaks."
I told you I’ve become a little obsessed.
Usually when I watch a TV show or movie that has been extremely hyped up, I'm disappointed. When a series is as powerfully beloved as "Twin Peaks," it’s unlikely that the reality will match the expectation. But "Twin Peaks" has, and actually outstripped it. It’s not just a weird show with entertainment value -- it’s deeply philosophical, and Agent Cooper’s interest in making a longer stay in this compelling and unique world reflects my similar investment, as the viewer.
And I still have a whole second season to get through, and then a long wait for the new series in 2016. I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.